The Toshiba Satellite Pro S500 is a no-nonsense laptop that's primarily aimed at business users. It has a large, 15.6-inch screen and an impressive range of ports and is available for around £630.
Big, bright and business-like
The first thing that strikes you about the S500 is just how large and heavy it is. Weighing a hefty 2.54kg, it certainly won't appeal to those who need to work on the move. The design feels rather chunky, too. This isn't surprising, considering it's quite tall and wide, measuring 374 by 250mm. The black finish on the lid and wrist rest has a slightly pimpled finish, but the rest of the design is rather staid and boring, although the laptop does feel very robust.
When you flip open the lid, you're met by the largish 15.6-inch screen. Surprisingly, the screen has a TruBrite glossy finish, rather than the matte finish we're used to seeing on laptops aimed at professionals. The glossy finish is quite reflective, but, as usual, this is somewhat counterbalanced by the fact it helps on-screen colours appear deeper and more vibrant. If you want a laptop with a matte display, you may want to check out Toshiba's Tecra A11 instead, which is almost identical save for the screen.
The S500's display uses LED backlighting, so it looks very bright, but its resolution of 1,366x768 pixels isn't all that impressive for a screen of this size. Nestled above the display is a webcam with an integrated microphone, so you can use the laptop to make video calls with software like Skype without having to hook up any external hardware.
The laptop's extra girth means Toshiba has managed to fit a numerical keypad alongside the standard Qwerty keyboard. This move has compromised the main keyboard slightly, however, as the return key has been reduced to half-size, something that takes a little getting used to when you're typing at speed. Nevertheless, the traditional tapered keys are light and speedy to the touch and the keyboard is refreshingly free of the sponginess that sometimes affects keyboards on larger laptops.
As a business-focused machine, it's no surprise to find the laptop runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, rather than the Home Premium Edition you'll find on consumer machines. Toshiba has sensibly added a decent 4GB of RAM to give Windows a little room to breathe, while the brains of the laptop come courtesy of a dual-core Intel Core i3-330M processor, clocked at 2.13GHz. This is a pretty meaty specification, so it's not much of a revelation that it posted an impressive score of 5,235 in our PCMark05 benchmark test.
It's not as impressive when it comes to graphics, however. While the on-board Intel GMA HD graphics chip is fine for decoding 1080p video smoothly, it's not much good when it comes to 3D gaming. In the 3Dmark06 benchmark, it only clocked up a lame score of 1,886, so you won't be using the S500 to play the latest 3D titles. Battery life was pretty good, though. In our Battery Eater test, the S500 managed to tick along for an hour and 25 minutes before running out of juice. Under real-world conditions, the battery is likely to last much longer than in this intensive test.
On the storage front, Toshiba has included a 320GB hard drive, which provides a decent amount of space for your files. There's also a DVD writer along with an SD card reader -- the latter often comes in handy for transferring photos from a digital camera. Toshiba has been quite generous when it comes to the range of ports on offer. The laptop has four USB ports, for example, and one of these doubles as an eSata port. This port is enabled for sleep-and-charge, so you can use it to charge peripherals like MP3 players and cameras when the laptop is switched off. The ExpressCard slot provides some opportunity for expansion and there's both a standard VGA port and a MiniDisplay port for hooking the laptop up to an external screen or TV. On the networking front, all the bases are covered thanks to the presence of a Gigabit Ethernet port as well as 801.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro S500 is not the most inspiring laptop to look at, but it feels well built, has impressive performance and a decent battery life. Its size and weight mean it's not a good option for those who are constantly on the move, but the wide range of ports and spacious keyboard and screen make it a comfortable option for desk-bound professionals.
Edited by Emma Bayly